July 10: #27, Fear and Desire
“Well, we have nothing to lose but our futures.”
Fear and Desire isn't a good film, although we should be thankful that it allowed Stanley Kubrick to go from photographer to director and get some rookie mistakes out of the way with a script that wasn't going to be exceptional no matter what he had done with it.
With a simple “soldiers behind enemy lines” story, the setup isn't bad. However, the same can't be said about the characters, who are largely either completely dull (Kenneth Harp's Lt. Corby) or absolutely ridiculous (Pvt. Sidney).
Sidney in particular goes from a little frazzled to batshit crazy in 0.3 seconds, deciding to act out as a dumbass weirdo rapist the moment he's left to babysit a random captive girl that the group finds. The best character among the group is Frank Silvera's Sgt. Mac, who showcases a lone island of personality in a sea of completely flat dialogue.
A lot of the directorial choices are real head-scratchers. There are some really bad voice-overs during an early montage of the soldiers walking, some extremely awkward and unnecessary quick cuts as the soldiers discuss their predicament in the beginning of the film and even flashbacks at one point to stuff we literally saw five minutes before.
However, Kubrick shows off his potential in one particular scene where the soldiers ambush a stew shack staffed by a few enemy soldiers. As the men dispatch their enemies, Kubrick gives us close-ups of hands gripping at food and then slowly relaxing, as well as silent faces in the aftermath of the skirmish. It's a cleverly filmed sequence in a movie that otherwise can't really be recommended, except for its historical importance as Kubrick's first film.